Thursday, October 25, 2007

GL Analysis: Thank You, Mr. Sitt

Astroland Boardwalk

After ranting that developer Joe Sitt could show good faith in Coney Island by extending the lease of Astroland, we'd be remiss in not saying something today. After all, Astroland has another year to live, and Coney Island should have a decent summer in 2008. We have given Mr. Sitt our share of grief for the awful handling of things in Coney Island and for needless, premature demolitions and land clearance. Back in September we wrote of keeping Astroland open, "Mr. Sitt, do the right thing." So, we will say this: Mr. Sitt, you did the right thing and there are a lot of people who thank you for it.

When we left Astroland on September 9 after a long, long day of shooting photos, we turned around and literally said, "Goodbye" before we walked to the F Train feeling very empty. While we're not happy that we will get to have that feeling all over again next September, for now, we're glad to know there will be fireworks on Friday night, that we can go up in the Astrotower again and that we can wander around that outdated, little state fair-like midway again for another summer season. In its simplicity, Astroland reminds of us of something that is fast disappearing in a world of megabucks development and corporate blandness. It is real and it is genuine and it brings us back to a time when a carnival set up in a church parking lot and nobody knew what a latte was, let alone Starbucks.

All that having been said, we still feel a little bit like we're thanking someone for not pulling a trigger when they picked up a gun and pointed it at someone's head in the first place.

We remain deeply skeptical about Mr. Sitt's plans for Coney Island--about the 3o- and 40-story buildings, about the residential plans which have morphed into condo-hotel plans and about the densities and designs in general. There is a lot of plywood in windows that wasn't there before and a sense that bulldozers are waiting in the wings to start leveling more buildings, including a couple that local preservationists would like to see spared.

A lot more should be known about what will happen in the next week or two when the city's zoning recommendations are released. At that point, we will know if there was a quid pro quo for extending Astroland's lease (for instance, watering down the amusement district by allowing residential development along Stillwell Avenue) or if Mr. Sitt simply chose not to do violence to Coney Island.

We have said many times that we do not oppose development in Coney Island. Anyone with a sense of its history can't look at a vast school bus parking lot next to the boardwalk or vacant lots and want to preserve it that way. The issue is how Coney Island is redeveloped, not if. If Coney Island is a thriving, vital place full of amusements five or six years from now, with residential development west of KeySpan Park, everyone will win. If a large part of it is rebuilt as a bland and lifeless place of generic condo towers dwarfing their neighbors and if part of the amusement district ends up looking like a shopping mall in New Jersey, but with nicer signs, then everybody loses. Coney Island isn't the place for that.

The critical zoning issues in Coney Island won't be settled until late 2008, at best. The discussion could well extend further if there is contention about the plan. In that case, we could be back at this same point at this time next year.

Those, however, are all points to be dissected on another day. Today, we can finally say that after numerous public relations debacles that have turned some opinion against the Thor project, Mr. Sitt has done a good thing--and a politically smart thing--by allowing Astroland to stay open.

Thank you.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Red Hook said...

I don't agree with Sitt's plans for Coney Island, but I do think it is amusing how the administration falls over itself for Ratner - ignoring the blatantly obvious problems with Atlantic Yards - and then points out the same problems about the Coney Island plans.

The Atlantic Yards area is exploding with development and investment and didn't need the city's ham-fisted involvement. Coney Island is EXACTLY where their involvement is required and instead they are playing a hard nose game with Thor Equities.

The only result will be development that is not what the developer, city or residents want.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Peregrine said...

Atlantic Yards is exactly what Brooklyn needs. The naysayer’s are out to deny a better life for the area.
Coney Island needs an input of capitol with an eye to modern amusement venues and will get it with the new arcade and food venders.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Peregrine said...

Atlantic Yards is exactly what Brooklyn needs. The naysayer’s are out to deny a better life for the area.
Coney Island needs an input of capitol with an eye to modern amusement venues and will get it with the new arcade and food venders.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Red Hook said...

It's hard to believe nearly any comment supporting AY isn't coming from someone connected to the project... or organizations that were heavily funded to support the project...

...because all such comments follow the same Fox News-like pattern.

- Attack the messenger.

People against the project are labeled as naysayers or NIMBYs or what have you.

- Make broad undefinable statements about the project.

"The naysayers are out to deny a better life for the area".

"Atlantic Yards is exactly what Brooklyn needs."

- Most importantly, never clearly state what the project brings to Brooklyn, since almost of the claims made by the developers have come to be debunked, proven untrue and/or are massively overshadowed by the negatives of the project.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you people so negative about redevelopment of amusement district and invite entrepreneurs with new ideas for great place like Coney Island. I hate to see Coney Island in the dark especially during winter season.

Shamil/Mybrooklyn.com

11:22 AM  

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